Republic of Ireland Under 21s...


Republic of Ireland Under 21s suffer late heartbreak against Italy

Ruairi O'Hagan
Ruairi O'Hagan

07:08 22 Nov 2023

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The Republic of Ireland under 21s were just seconds away from a famous victory in Turner's Cross. In the 6th minute of time added on Jim Crawford's side led by two goals to one, Killian Phillips and Sinclair Armstrong scoring either side of a penalty from Leeds United striker Wilfried Gnonto. Crawford's side were terrific throughout, putting the visitors under pressure thanks to some superb forward play from Armstrong and Aidamo Emakhu, all the while keeping things tidy at the back, with captain Anselmo Garcia MacNulty putting in a superb shift at the heart of the Irish defence.

With the five minutes of added time up, Italy launched one last attack. With over 6,000 fans screaming for the final whistle, a deflected shot found its way to Gnonto, who headed goalwards. His effort took a massive deflection off Cork's Matt Healy (who was superb throughout), sending the ball past a despairing Josh Keely who had gone the other way, and silencing a packed Turner's Cross who had been waiting to celebrate what would have been a deserved win for the Boys in Green.

The result leaves Ireland in second, a point behind Italy in Euro 2025 Group A qualifying following Turkey's 2-0 win over Norway.

Speaking to RedFM Sport afterwards, Crawford said that he and his players were absolutely gutted with the equaliser.

"The boys are on the floor, it's a tough one to take. Drawn 2-2 with Italy, who are European giants, but that's how far this group has come.

"I thought to a man, the boys were exceptional. We knew coming here that the pitch wasn't conducive to play football on, so we had to go a bit more direct at times, picking off second phase balls. It's not pretty at times, but the boys carried it out to a T when it was on. We're not saying to overdo it or what have you, because the boys did pass it around and keep it at times.

"It's a credit to each and every one of them the information they took on, and executing the detail that had been given to them. It just shows what this group is about, the character of the group, and for me that underpins any great team. And for me this is a great group of players, a great staff that I'm lucky to have.

"We're halfway through the campaign, I've said to the players in there that from March on we'll hit the ground running, there's no doubt about it, and we'll give everything we can to become the first 21s team to qualify for the European Championships."


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